Remembering John Button
RIP Papa Smurf
Tributes have been flooding in from around the world for John Button, father of McLaren driver Jenson Button, who has died at the age of 70. Mr Button was found dead at his home in France, after a suspected heart attack..
John Button has been a guiding force for his son, Jenson, right from his sons early days as a kart racer, and right up until the present day, including Jenson’s Formula One world championship win in 2009.
John attended every Grand Prix he possibly could to cheer his son on, and became a regular feature around the McLaren team. Affectionately known as “Papa Smurf” he was not only admired for his devotion to his son, but he was also considered by many in F1 to be a really nice guy.
McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “In my long Formula 1 career, I’ve encountered many drivers’ fathers, but I think it’s safe to say that John was perhaps more devoted to his son than any of them. “Ever since Jenson was a boy, racing go-karts, his dad has been at his side, helping him, supporting him, and somehow finding the money for the next race.
There were further heartfelt condolences from both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Hamilton commented by saying “Deeply saddened by the passing of John Button. I’m so sorry. John was such a great man and will be missed by so many. God bless.” Alonso added his own tribute to John by saying “My condolences to all the Button family, especially to Jenson. Very sad news. John… a great man, a friend, we will miss him”.
John Button who used to drive rally cross himself, supported his son when Jenson first took to kart racing. At an early age Jenson had already told his dad that he wanted to race in F1. Jenson got off to a great start by claiming a victory in his first ever kart race, and with Johns backing Jenson went on to achieve his dream, but it was not all plain sailing.
Like many, money was tight for the Button household at that time, and on one occasion John Button had to borrow money to pay for the fuel to drive home from a kart race being held in Scotland. John coached his son through those early days, and funded his sons racing through his own kart engine preparation business. No one could have foreseen the future, but one of John’s customers in those early days was none other than a certain Anthony Hamilton, whose son Lewis Hamilton would eventually become Jenson’s partner at McLaren in later years.
A parents determination, and sacrifice to help their child succeed in what they dream of doing is a common thread that runs through many sports, but to do that and be admired by others for his undying love and support is a rare quality.
I am sure that you will join us here at Pillow Motor Sport in sending out our heartfelt condolences to Jenson and his family.